Friday, 1 July 2011

Putting the Record Straight

Following on from my previous post and the Council's publication of the 'minutes' for the June 8th meeting, I was somewhat surprised yesterday afternoon to see yet another Press Release appear from Dyfed Powys Police. I was even more surprised by the tabloid-like title, 'Putting the Record Straight'. They are of course entitled to put forward their version of events, address criticism and perhaps pre-empt a complaint by publicly defending their actions, and so am I. However, I do not have, as both the police and the council do, the luxury of expert legal advice, so all I can do is say it how I see it..basically.

I would say that most of the criticism against the police is about decisions made by more senior management. The attending officers, (of which there were four, not two as in a previous press release) were clearly inexperienced in dealing with a situation such as this which I believe involved political and free speech issues. I would be interested to see exactly what directions were given to the police by the council when summoned, I hope I will in time, and as I have said before the response was so numbered and so quick, I really hope they weren't already parked around the corner 'just in case'.

Much is made in the article of previous 'incidents', I assume this refers to the singular, a previous 'incident', which readers of this blog will be aware I was the person who made the complaint of assault and not the other way round. This reference appears to be being used, wrongly, to try and paint a picture of myself as being a potentially violent person and to be giving the police and the council the excuse that I was likely to cause a breach of the peace. This is far from the truth and I would add that there were independent witnesses to the incident who will confirm that I remained calm, tried to quietly argue my point at no point indicated that I was likely to 'kick off'.

"The officers asked the council official whether if the lady stopped filming she would be permitted to remain and were advised in unequivocal terms that she would not be permitted to do so and they wanted her removed from the premises."

This is disturbing. I do not know who the 'council official' was, but if this conversation took place it is news to me. The police told me, upon their arrival, that 'council officials' had told them that 'filming was banned under their constitution' and I had to leave. My arguments were clearly pointless as the police were actually acting on an entirely different agenda - they had been directed by the 'council official' to have me removed, no matter what. The police even failed to take the name and address of a gentleman who had, at my request, remained as a witness and had declared this to the police officers.

The press release goes on to deal with the possibility that my human rights were breached by going to some lengths to defend their position. As it now appears there was a personal agenda to the demands for my removal, the question as to whether those rights were breached, becomes even more important. This is something I need to pursue. We can all be aware of our 'rights' and we can all make a stand, but being able to afford to defend such a stance another matter, but I will give it my best, I believe these two Authorities acted outrageously but an apology from either is looking increasingly unlikely.

Please have a read of this post by Carmarthenshire blogger, Y Cniefwr; Spin Unspun - Dyfed Powys Police and PR , who is spot on.
The two earlier articles concerning Dyfed Powys Police from the New Statesman are also relevant, here and  here .
And also an interview published in today's South Wales Guardian which perhaps says a little more about me.

Lastly, as reported in today's Western Mail, it looks like Brecon Beacons National Park Authority will be debating the issue of filming public meetings on Friday, this is good news and well done to Mr Stow, Chair of their Audit and Scrutiny Committee for taking the initiative.

UPDATE this afternoon: 
The Council have issued a press release which was reported on BBC online;  Carmarthenshire council may web stream its meetings apparently the Policy and Resources Scrutiny committee will do a feasibility study. This has been mentioned a few times over the past couple of weeks (Carmarthen Journal last week) but may have been discussed at Tuesday's meeting of the above committee. It's a step in the right direction and I hope it goes far enough. Next step, an apology

UPDATE 1st July;
More links;
Plaid's Alun Williams blog; Filming council meetings – Ceredigion set to join the revolution, Quote; "Talking to senior Ceredigion officers, it’s clear they would not have reacted in the draconian way that Carmarthenshire Council did in the first place. But it’s interesting how that over-reaction now looks likely to lead to positive change across Wales, with many other Councils and public bodies due to debate the issue in the next few weeks."
Western Mail; Moves to allow the public to film council meetings backed by 14 AM's 
The Photon Blog; Carmarthenshire - The Dinosaur Reacts with a response from the Welsh Minister's Office
The Photon Blog; Guest Post by Y Cneifwr; Re-inventing the Wheel, 25 Times  - with a reaction to the Welsh Minister for Local Government's response.

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